Russians Driving Ahead On Front of 500 Miles; Reach Latvia Line

From the July 11, 1944 Edition of Stars and Stripes

A Berlin military spokesman in a bald announcement that seemed to doom the Vilna garrisons under orders to fight “to the last man,” admitted yesterday that the Soviet-Lithuanian rail junction, a key hinge in Hitler’s Baltic defense line, had been “completely cut off” by the Russians.

The enemy admitted the German garrison had been forced back tot he center of the city in heavy house-to-house fighting, and the Russians claimed to have taken the railway station, key to the Nazis’ principal Baltic supply line running out of Warsaw, and also Vilna airdrome.

Thus the Russians had virtually neutralized the last Nazi bastion standing before the Lithuanian plains and narrowed the enemy’s land corridor between the advancing Red Army and the Baltic to 120 miles.

russians army soldier

Soviet Soldier on the Attack

Advance on 500-Mile Front

Behind the overpowering might of its tanks, the Red Army drove forward all along the 500-mile front from above Dvinsk to below the Pripet marshes east of Lvov.

In the extreme north, opposite Dvinsk, Baltic troops under Gen. Ivan Bagramyan reached the pre-1939 Latvian frontier for the first time by the capture of the town of Druja on the southern bank of the Dvina River, 35 miles east of Dvinsk.

Other units of Bagramyan’s army, by advancing 20 miles in 24 hours, reached Braslav, 25 miles southeast of Dvinsk and within 19 miles of the Dvinsk-Riga railroad. More than 1,000 Nazis were wiped out in street fighting preceding the capture, a Moscow communique said.

This was apparently the Russians’ closest approach to Dvisnk itself, the Dvina River port commanding the valley leading down through Latvia to the Baltic at Riga.

At the same time, the Red Army drove 22 miles inside pre-1939 Lithuania and yesterday was fighting at Utema, 43 miles southwest of Dvinsk, on the Kaunas-Dvinsk road. The gain marked a 25-mile advance over the last reported positions in this sector.

Farther south the Russians were reported 25 miles beyond captured Baranovichi. Pravda told of fierce fighting in this sector where the immediate goals through 50 to 100 miles away, were Grodno, Bialystock and Brest-Litovsk, fortresses on the German defense line already threatened at Vilna.

The Red Army further pinched off the German Salient jutting into its lines east of Pinsk. Forty miles east of Pinsk, the Germans evacuated Luninets, on the railway from Gomel to Brest-Litovsk, German Radio announced last night.

While Russian tactical bombers hammered German artillery positions and troop formations at Vilna, destroying 100 trucks and three military trains in Vilna railroad station, strategic bombers ranged farther afield to raid Bialystok, Grodno and a station on the Vilna-Kaunas line only 20 miles from Kaunas.

The Soviet Communique announced that a large force of German paratroops landed in the Vilna area Sunday morning as reinforcements had been wiped out to the last man.

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